Wednesday 25 May 2016

Old man threatens (ish) the 4 minute kilometer!

This has nothing to do with fantasy, writing, or politics. It's not even a touching personal piece. So look away now, move on, nothing to see.

Since I no longer have a 'day job' and don't need to cycle the ten mile round trip to work at the Aerospace giant that employed me, I have, mostly against my will, taken up voluntary exercise.

We've moved opposite a park, so on mornings when I can think of no valid excuse not to I run one circuit of it. I read somewhere that short vigorous exercise is as effective as long less vigorous exercise. And since it's very boring I've opted for short. Bollocks to jogging - I'm going to run.

It so happens that my circuit is almost exactly 1 kilometer. I'm also homing (very slowly) in on breaking the 4 minute barrier ... which if it were 1 mile instead would be impressive.

To put it in context, the world record for the 1k is just over 2 minutes!

But I'm an old man, and unfit, and genetically unfit as well (as a young man when I tried running the 5 mile circuit they used to put us on at school I would always end up coming midfield in a class where most of them had opted to make a stroll of it). My heart/lungs are just not very well wired for running.

Anyway, this is what you've made me do by sitting me in front of a writer's desk. For shame!

Monday 23 May 2016

Ten years!

I've been writing in some form or other for decades. In fact I earned $30,000 running part of a play-by-mail (PBM) game in my spare time in the late 80s and through the 90s. That's probably why I came late to writing traditional fiction. Running Saturnalia scratched my creative itch.

Anyway, in 2001 I moved to the States, tripled my salary as a research scientist and stopped having the time to run my area in the PBM game. I started writing short stories and poems instead. Less labour intensive.

In 2004/5 I started to think about sending my short fiction to magazine. In May 2006 I got my first check for a story. It was for $31 from Fictitious Force magazine. I've kept it in a frame ever since.

Ten years later I've had quite a few checks and have, for the past year, earned my living solely as an author.

That's actually quite a rare thing these days. Most authors have day jobs. What's often called the mid-list no longer pays enough to live on. Authors you'll have heard of if you pay attention to their genre, but who aren't regularly hitting the New York Times best selling list, very often have to work a day job to make a decent living.

George RR Martin and JK Rowling aren't going to be delivering your pizza any time soon. But there are authors who have sold tens of thousands of books and still sell thousands each year who may well be ringing your bell with a hot treat from Dominos in hand.

We live in a changing world with many more writers coming to market chasing fewer readers with more distractions to tempt them toward other media. Also it's ridiculously easy to steal books from the internet and the culture of entitlement is getting so pervasive that people will steal just to avoid the momentary inconvenience of paying.

I never expected to make my living this way, but it's been a pleasant surprise. Many thanks to the readers out there who made it happen.

Saturday 14 May 2016

I have some signing to do!

UPS tried to charge my wife $86 to receive a package yesterday. Fortunately she sent them away and I was able to phone up and point out that there is no import duty on printed pages. They made some feeble excuse for their criminal incompetence and re-delivered later that day without any charge.

The package contained the signing pages for the special edition omnibus.

See some of the interior art HERE and pre-order a copy!

Friday 13 May 2016

My annual Gemmell Award post!

The Gemmell awards have a shiny new website  and voting is now open, do it here! (2 clicks, no registration)

The award was set up in memory of fantasy writer David Gemmell, a favourite author of mine and giant of the UK fantasy scene, who died aged only 57. The award has been running since 2009. It's described as an award for 'pure' fantasy.

The award has three sections:

The Legend Award: Best Novel.

The Morningstar Award: Best Debut Novel.

The Ravenheart Award: Best Cover Art.

Authors short-listed for the Legend award get one of these fellows:

Various events take place to help fund the Gemmell Awards, and last year there was an anthology, Legends II, featuring work donated by Award authors. I have a Broken Empire story in there, featuring Sir Makin.

You can order the book here and pat yourself on the back for supporting a worthy cause.

It hasn't been all plain sailing for the Gemmell Awards in gaining acceptance. Here a Speculative Horizons blog tells us why the Gemmells are bad for fantasy, albeit in the form of several terribly bad arguments that Joe Abercrombie rightly describes as 'bollocks' in the comments section.

The main argument against the Gemmells is that they might (heaven forfend) give an award to a (shudder) popular book. The shame of it. To prop this up we're invited to believe that bestsellers are bestsellers because of advertising campaigns. We're also invited to follow the rather feeble logic that because being well-written is not an essential requirement for bestsellers ... bestsellers are not well-written.

The idea that a voted award has no merit because it might reflect popular taste doesn't seem to have been extended to the other high profile voted awards.

It's not a function of the size of the voter-base. The Best Novel category in this year's Hugos had over 2000 voters (a record driven by highly political games being played with the award at the moment). Last year's Gemmell award for best novel was perhaps decided by 5,000 voters (nearly 20,000 votes from over 70 countries in total over three categories and two rounds, with the Legend Award drawing the bulk of the votes). The difference is that the Hugos are driven by cliques held together by shared politics, shared blogs, shared convention attendance. They talk to each other through blogs, they have their heroes to give them direction, they have their accepted aesthetic. They are a subset of the most passionate fandom. This closeness allows the Hugos to be something they can talk about, argue about, something they feel they can influence and control.

The Gemmells, on the other hand, are voted on by a demographic that's has very little to define it. Gemmell voters are fans of David Gemmell, people who follow the authors involved, their number includes passionate and extreme fans of the genre, but also plenty of casual readers with enough interest to click through and vote. The pundits don't know how to reach out to them, how to influence or persuade them. They don't feel ownership or control ... and that simultaneously scares some of them and bores others. Without that game of influence it's true that the vote moves away from the cliquey, quirky, volatility of the Hugos and does become a closer relation to the bestseller lists. It is more than that though. There is an aesthetic being applied here - not one Hugo voters may like very much - but even so. If there wasn't then Emperor of Thorns would have lost to The Daylight War and Republic of Thieves, which both sold significantly more copies, and all three of them would have been CRUSHED by A Memory of Light which heavily outsold the rest of the short-list combined.

Part of the "it's just a popularity contest" accusation seems to involve the idea that the people voting have only read the book they're voting for. This poll of Hugo and Gemmell voters (at time of publishing) shows an average of just over 3.0 books from the Gemmell short list read by Gemmell voters and an average of 3.0 books from the Hugo short list read by Hugo voters. Indicating that both sets of voters are similarly informed about the books they're voting on.

In conclusion: Hugo if you want to, I'm staying here with Gemmell.

(Additional facts: This year's long list has 49 titles, 13 of them by female authors. The titles are put forward by the authors' publishers, though I believe any member of the public can suggest titles and if they 'meet the bill', i,e epic fantasy for grown-ups, they'll be accepted).

Saturday 7 May 2016

Favourite covers from SPFBO 2016

I've noticed that the covers in the SPFBO this year have been of really high quality.

These are the 'best' 30 covers from the 300 books submitted. Three chosen by each blogger from the thirty assigned to them. Scroll down to see all 30.

The bloggers have chosen their overall winners from this group of 30, but you can still have your say.

You can vote for as many (or few) as you like. Do take the trouble to scroll down and consider the whole selection first.

The final blogger vote gives us:

Gold (6 votes): The Dragon's Blade (#18)

Silver (5 votes): Touch of Iron (#3)

Bronze (5 votes): They Mostly Come Out At Night (#8)

Followed by:
Masque (#28)
Song of Blood & Stone (#4)
The Grey Bastards (#2)
Immortals (#7)
All the saints are dead (#21)
It takes a thief to catch a sunrise (#9)
Last Necromancer (#29)

Currently after 263 votes the public have:

Gold: , The Dragon's Blade (#18)
Silver: They Mostly Come Out At Night (#8), The Grey Bastards (#2)
Bronze: Touch of Iron (#3), Masque (#28)

Click image for more detail.

 Ria at Bibliotropic (1-3)

The team at Fantasy-Faction (4-6)

Sarah at Bookworm Blues (7-9)

The team at Pornokitsch (10-12)

The team at Fantasy Literature (13-15)

The Team at Bibliosanctum (16-18)

Lynn from Lynn's Books (19-21)

Mihir from Fantasy Book Critic (22-24)

The team at the Qwillery (25-27)

From the team at Elitist Book Review (28-30)

Wednesday 4 May 2016

All The Wheel of Osheim reviews I know about so far

As is traditional I'm keeping a list of early reviews for my newest book:

In chronological order:

#1  Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviews

"a stunning conclusion to a trilogy which set an already high bar."

#2  T.O Munro Blog

"There are times in our lives when we all need a story that good and The Wheel of Osheim is itself just such a story."

#3  Grimdark Magazine

"The Wheel of Osheim presents everything our followers could want in a fantasy book"

"I have just had the absolute pleasure of reading the final work in Mark Lawrence’s The Red Queen’s War series"

"Mark Lawrence has truly outdone himself. I would actually go so far as to say that this is his best book, hands down"

#6 The Tattooed Geek

"I feel this is his best book to date."

#7 Ally's Desk

"He ends the trilogy with a fittingly spectacular conclusion – one which, in what is becoming a tradition with Mark Lawrence’s books, saw me reading far into the small hours of the morning on a work night. Again."

#8 Laura M Hughes, fantasist.

"Yes: that jammy bastard Mark Lawrence has done it again"

#9 Parmenion Books

"This series is right up there in the pantheon of my fav fantasy reads… and Wheel of Osheim completes it in true style, a must read."

#10 Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

"this third installment was everything fans could have hoped for and then some!"

#11 Lynn's Books

"a bloody brilliant and epic conclusion ... the author’s best book so far"

12 Quill to Live

"Jalan is one of the most memorable and enjoyable protagonists I have read in a while"

13 Fantasy Book Review

"maybe the best book I've read for a few years, and I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough."

14 Biblosanctum

"The Wheel of Osheim is a masterpiece. You need to read The Red Queen’s War trilogy. The end. Full stop."

15: Mighty Thor JRS

"This book has built upon the extraordinary solid foundation of the first two books and takes this series to a new level of greatness."

16: The Fictional Hangout

"rest assured that Lawrence kills it here again, and delivering an excellent conclusion to a fantastic trilogy"

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Let's hear it.

I need to get rid of a few more of these buggers.

Send me a recording (or link to a recording) of you reading a line or lines from any book or story of mine, and you're in the random draw for an Advance Review Copy (ARC)!

Do a great job and you might win the 'skill choice' prize (also an ARC).

Audio or video, I don't mind.

You can do free online audio recordings here, no registering, just click and go!

Send me your link (youtube, speakpipe, whatever) to

Contest Closed
Winners #16 (random) #18 (random + quality filter)


#36  Rocus

#35  Dan on SPEAKPIPE

#34  Nathan, on SPEAKPIPE

#33  Marcia, from Prince of Fools, On SPEAKPIPE

#32 Andrew, a Gunlaw quote On SPEAKPIPE

#31  Mia (Snorri, faux Viking) On SPEAKPIPE
                  The Time To Eat poem On SPEAKPIPE

#30  Charlie On SPEAKPIPE

#29  Hilary On SPEAKPIPE

#28  Nikodem on Soundcloud

#27  Bella on Soundcloud

#26 Ozcan   On SPEAKPIPE

#25  Bev, from During the Dance

#24  Phillips  On Soundcloud

#23  Kevin  here it is.

#22  Arne  Listen up!

#21  Sandra  Listen here!  (this one gets special mention for the ending!)

#20  Lucille  On SPEAKPIPE

#19  Adrian

#18  Laura

#17 Gabriel    On SPEAKPIPE

#16 Constantina   Listen here!

#15 Alex

#14 Chris (inspired camera work here!)

#13 Miguel  On Soundcloud

#12 Peter    Regular and North Korean!

#11 Kush   On Soundcloud

#10 Kobe    On SPEAKPIPE

#9 Leonardo


#7 Josh    On Soundcloud

#6 Paul    On Soundcloud

#5 Jenn     On SPEAKPIPE

#4 Michael

#3 Kyle     On SPEAKPIPE

#2 Trevor

#1 Luke